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Escaping Saddle Points in Constrained Optimization
Aryan Mokhtari · Asuman Ozdaglar · Ali Jadbabaie

Wed Dec 05 02:00 PM -- 04:00 PM (PST) @ Room 210 #47
In this paper, we study the problem of escaping from saddle points in smooth nonconvex optimization problems subject to a convex set $\mathcal{C}$. We propose a generic framework that yields convergence to a second-order stationary point of the problem, if the convex set $\mathcal{C}$ is simple for a quadratic objective function. Specifically, our results hold if one can find a $\rho$-approximate solution of a quadratic program subject to $\mathcal{C}$ in polynomial time, where $\rho<1$ is a positive constant that depends on the structure of the set $\mathcal{C}$. Under this condition, we show that the sequence of iterates generated by the proposed framework reaches an $(\epsilon,\gamma)$-second order stationary point (SOSP) in at most $\mathcal{O}(\max\{\epsilon^{-2},\rho^{-3}\gamma^{-3}\})$ iterations. We further characterize the overall complexity of reaching an SOSP when the convex set $\mathcal{C}$ can be written as a set of quadratic constraints and the objective function Hessian has a specific structure over the convex $\mathcal{C}$. Finally, we extend our results to the stochastic setting and characterize the number of stochastic gradient and Hessian evaluations to reach an $(\epsilon,\gamma)$-SOSP.

Author Information

Aryan Mokhtari (MIT)
Asuman Ozdaglar (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Asu Ozdaglar received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, in 1996, and the S.M. and the Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, in 1998 and 2003, respectively. She is currently a professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also the director of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. Her research expertise includes optimization theory, with emphasis on nonlinear programming and convex analysis, game theory, with applications in communication, social, and economic networks, distributed optimization and control, and network analysis with special emphasis on contagious processes, systemic risk and dynamic control. Professor Ozdaglar is the recipient of a Microsoft fellowship, the MIT Graduate Student Council Teaching award, the NSF Career award, the 2008 Donald P. Eckman award of the American Automatic Control Council, the Class of 1943 Career Development Chair, the inaugural Steven and Renee Innovation Fellowship, and the 2014 Spira teaching award. She served on the Board of Governors of the Control System Society in 2010 and was an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control. She is currently the area co-editor for a new area for the journal Operations Research, entitled "Games, Information and Networks. She is the co-author of the book entitled “Convex Analysis and Optimization” (Athena Scientific, 2003).

Ali Jadbabaie (MIT)

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